Cooking Fresh: Apples Are at Their Best
Make the most of local fruit at its peak.
Though it is commonly said that 7,500 apple varieties exist, only 100 of those are grown commercially in the U.S., and only 15 find their way to most of us. Red and Golden Delicious apples are ubiquitous no matter what the season, coming to us from the Pacific Northwest or the Southern Hemisphere. Braeburn, Fuji, Gala and Granny Smith, similarly, show up in the market all year.
But these days, from Paducah to Harlan, apple orchards in Kentucky are producing seasonal fruit that offer a range of color, texture and flavors, from tart to floral, sweet or spicy. There are Cameos, Pippins, Arkansas Black, Stayman and York Imperial, among others.
Even the local and seasonally picked Granny Smith and Fuji offer better flavors than those in the supermarkets, which like their Delicious predecessors have been bred for the traits that allow them to travel and keep in “controlled storage” to keep them commercially viable up to a year. In contrast, fall apples from local orchards will reward you with flavor you won’t find at a supermarket.
In Kentucky, apples varieties have been ripening since July, on the more than 500 farms that grow them. Sold mostly from the farms at full retail price, apples are one crop that farmers can depend on to provide a good living. (Some of these farms are open to tourists, and contribute $10 billion to Kentucky’s tourism industry, according to the University of Kentucky.)
Wise cooks tell you that when you’re cooking with apples, you should mix the varieties to get a multi-faceted flavor. This adage is especially true when dealing with supermarket apples, where, these days, the Granny Smith is really nothing but tart and the Gala can be counted on as sweet.
On the other hand, cooked from scratch, an apple streusel cake or sour cream pie is not likely to cause anyone to pause and think about the combination of apple varieties. They’ll be too busy enjoying the overall experience.
Ayres Family Orchard 525 Wilson Rd, Owenton, AyresApples.com
Bi Water Farm & Greenhouse 877 Cincinnati Rd, Georgetown, BiWaterFarm.com
Bray Fruit 2580 Highway 42 West, Bedford, BrayOrchards.com
Byrnside Orchard 512 Old Seven Mile Pike, Shelbyville, 502-633-2678
Eckert | Boyd Orchard 1396 Pinckard Pike, Versailles, BoydOrchards.com
Evans Orchard & Cider Mill 180 Stone Road, Georgetown, EvansOrchard.com
Hidden Hollow Orchard and Wildlife Sanctuary 3200 Apple Hill Rd., Louisville, HiddenHollowOrchard.com
Mulberry Orchard 1330 Mulberry Pike, Shelbyville, MulberryOrchardKy.com
Reed Valley Orchard 239 Lail Ln., Paris, ReedValleyOrchard.com
Huber’s Orchard and Winery 19816 Huber Rd, Borden, IN, HuberWinery.com